My EAP summer #2

I have just completed another summer at INTO University of East Anglia.  I wrote about my experience last year in a longer post.   Induction week was back in June and all 425 students on the 12 week course received their final results on Friday 14 September.

I had a mild panic attack during the first staff meeting in week 12 (the weeks are counted down, not up, because of other 8-week and 6-week courses).  But other than that, I had no issues and coped well with the demands of the teaching. The organisation and structure of the course at INTO, University of East Anglia, was superb once again. Once again, I taught two Humanities and Science classes, rather than Business or Law students.  Once again, I lived on campus with several other teachers.  I taught Humanities C & D (shown below), which consisted of 31 students from mainland China, and one Saudi male.

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This year, Research Skills were taught separately by another set of teachers, while there was a return to lectures on Wednesday afternoon for the students.  This seemed to make the workload easier this year, compared with last. Individual tutorials were still required outside of class time, but I managed this perfectly well, along with my fantastic teaching partner, Melissa.  Subject discussion classes were also introduced this time.  Initially the teachers led the discussion with an article or Ted Talk, with students gradually taking over this class towards the end of the course.  This year, I really made full use of Padlet with my writing class.  Both my planning and teacher talking time has been reduced.

Everything about this EAP course suits me, especially the location. Long gone are the days when I would struggle with workload or feel disorientated by living in another country.  It’s good to be in Norwich and I hope to properly move to the city very soon.

I will continue to be an IELTS invigilator with INTO on occasional Saturdays and have every intention of returning next year on the 12-week course.   Meanwhile, I have just started working again for Norfolk Community Learning Services, so not much of a break.  I do have a holiday and conference coming up in Malta, but a change is as good as a rest, anyway.

A selection of photos from the summer are below. In addition, there is a separate collection of photos from our class day trip to the North Norfolk coast in the final week.

 

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GoGoLily

I have just completed the production of a full-length, 90 minute film, which is entitled ‘GoGoLily’. It is the story of my 9 year-old niece’s attempt to visit all 50 GoGoHares in the city of Norwich on one day last month, starting with Hannah Nelson’s ‘moongazer’ in Fakenham, where Lily lives.

The complete film, which has been a real ‘labour of love’, has been made into a DVD which will be given to her on her 10th birthday later this month. I am able to share one part of it here, which shows her finding the first ten hares. This 15 minute clip has already been shared by the official @GoGoHares Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as by GoGoCreate, who were responsible for the trail of 168 leverets, designed by Norfolk schoolchildren, including Lily’s own school – Fakenham junior.

 

 

You can watch the 15 minute video below and on YouTube:

 

 

Paraphrase: An EAP Parody

This week I performed a song in front of some of my colleagues at UEA INTO.  It was a parody of the Coldplay song, Paradise, which I originally sang at the University of Warwick, in June 2012, that was dedicated to Steve Mann.

The reason behind the original parody was to entertain but there was a deliberate attempt to express the importance of not plagiarising on an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course, notably a Masters at the centre of Applied Linguistics.  The updated version was even more explicitly targetted at those on a pre-sessional course, in which the academic skills of paraphrasing and summarising are essential to avoid accusations of plagiarism.  The senior teacher, Lander Hawes, at the University of East Anglia, who taught students about the dangers of plagiarism and gave a lecture on this, recently left his position after several years.  So this version was dedicated to him – the ‘plagiarism man’ as I call him in the song.  It ends with a rap.

The rewritten lyrics show the importance of avoiding plagiarism, while stressing the importance of those academic skills required when writing a masters level essay, and are as follows:

How you doing, INTO?

She was just an innocent girl

From a ‘liberal’ Chinese world

Who had learned to get everything that she could

From the Internet or a downloaded book

So she plagia-plagia-plagiarised plagia-plagia-plagiarised plagia-plagia-plagiarised

Every time she wrote some lines

She ended up in Humanities ‘D’

And her tutor expected honesty

She was not allowed to plagiarise

when she quoted words or she summarised

Essays needed proper referencing

Lest she would get zero marks

If she tried to copy others and not properly cite her literary source

She might be penalised, chucked off the course

So she should para-para-paraphrase para-para-paraphrase para-para-paraphrase

or would end her Norwich days

So she should para-para-paraphrase para-para-paraphrase para-para-paraphrase

It’s the only honest way

La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Nevermind that Coldplay nick their melodies

Everything is up for grabs unless you pay in times like these

So you must para-para-paraphrase para-para-paraphrase para-para-paraphrase

for the sake of your MA

(So you must) para-para-paraphrase para-para-paraphrase para-para-paraphrase

(ooh-ooh-oooh)

So if you know what’s good for you and you don’t wanna get screwed.. As you do your final essay whilst you can’t afford food There’s just one request from the UEA and they don’t wanna be rude Remember to acknowledge everything that you do Time is running out on the essay that you planned Overuse of endnotes and direct quotes they can’t stand So be careful when you copy and paste, if you can Or you’ll have to answer to the Plagiarism man.

You can watch my performance here, which was recorded with different mobile devices. Thanks goes to two of my current colleagues, Hannah Barrah and Adele Pennington, for the additional footage.  I make a very noticeable mistake when I said ‘Warwick’ instead of ‘Norwich’, but managed to recover my composure enough to finish the song. 🙂

 

Coping with Epilepsy in the World of Education

by Kate Cory-Wright
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This is the first ever guest post on my blog and comes out of a private conversation with a fellow #Nightshift group member, Kate Cory-Wright, which began on 16 May. She was inspired by an interview I recently gave about my own mental health.  Like me, she has also suffered from panic attacks. She also has epilepsy, which I have no personal experience of.  Up until now she has mostly kept her epilepsy experience a secret. Only a handful of people know about her condition. She feels as if she has been hiding a huge part of herself for such a long time and would be judged harshly by the English Language Teaching community if she spoke up.  I’m honoured that she has chosen to share her story here. It is a powerful testimony from someone who prides herself on a fostering a professional image. In the run-up to its publication, she admitted that if this ever saw the light of day, you would be invited to celebrate with her. That time has come.  Phil.

Short Bio

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Kate Receiving ESU award

Kate is an award-winning ELT author. She has (co-) written over 25 ELT books and an e-learning course for teachers. She has published materials with National Geographic Learning, Cambridge University Press, Macmillan, as well as website materials for National Geographic Learning, Macmillan and Cengage / Epals.  The photo here shows Kate winning the English speaking Union award.

As an international Teacher Trainer, Kate has over 25 years experience. She has given over 500 academic seminars, workshops and short courses in regions as diverse as Latin America, Africa, The Middle East, and Asia.

Kate was born in London and began her professional life as an EFL/ESL teacher. She currently lives in the mountains of Ecuador and in her free time, gives classes to disadvantaged children.

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Kate Positive Quote

Introduction

This year is my 40th anniversary of living with epilepsy. To celebrate, I’ve decided to ‘come out of the closet’. It’s not easy. I rarely talk about it or tell people I have it. For years I’ve tried to write this blog, but each time it ends up in the trash. Each attempt evokes painful memories and fears. Fear that others will treat me differently. Fear of the stigma of epilepsy. At the same time, I know that not speaking up is doing others a disservice. Keeping quiet doesn’t help other people who suffer nor educators who want to know more. So, following the fine example of Phil Longwell, who is helping to bring mental health issues out into the open, I’m going to try once more to share my experiences. If this blog ever sees the light of day, please celebrate with me!

Kate’s Story

My story is just one of many. Around 1 in 26 people suffer from epilepsy and owing to the fact that there are more than 20 kinds of epilepsy, I don’t claim to speak for everyone. The only thing we all have in common are seizures, caused by a sudden electrical surge in the brain. This can affect our whole body (‘generalised seizures’), causing us to fall on the floor, or it can affect just one arm/leg (‘focal seizures’). We might suffer 2-3 minutes of severe convulsions, small quick movements, split-second blanks (‘absences’) or other symptoms. If the seizures aren’t controlled by medication, they can be severe. If they’re controlled, they’re barely noticeable. Like migraines and other neurological conditions, no two people have the same experience. Mine is just an example from tens of millions.

Rewind 40 years to the late 1970s.

My long affair with the illness began with traumatic brain injury, which is the most common cause of epilepsy. I was 15 years old and cycling – without a helmet – at top speed. It was intended to be a fun afternoon of racing my cousin through the hilly English town of Lewes. It was thrilling. Until we came to a sharp corner, that is. I fell off the bike, hit my head, and lay unconscious on the road.

Shortly after that I began to experience strange ‘absences’, a kind of regular blanking out. I could hear someone or look at something familiar, without recognising it. My vision would go blurry. More than once I lost consciousness, while walking along the pavement, and stepped straight into the oncoming traffic.

Much of that school year is a blur for me, to be frank. The absences developed into a more severe kind of focal epilepsy called temporal lobe epilepsy or ‘TLE’, the same kind that the musician Prince had. I vaguely remember feelings of fear and confusion, panic attacks, scary hallucinatory experiences, and a strong sense of déjà vu. My friends tell me it was barely noticeable to them apart from the occasional jerk of my arm or leg and some incoherent mumbles. The main problem was the constant electrical thunderstorm in my head, which severely disrupted my learning throughout the 5th form – the last obligatory year at secondary school in England ending with the all-important ‘O’ level exams, as they were known.

TLE is the most common form of epilepsy in adults, yet there’s no cure, and it’s notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat. Doctors struggled to find the right medication for me. In the meantime, I drifted in and out of consciousness every few minutes due to seizures. Detached from the classroom. Adrift.

When the time came for the ‘O’ level exams, all I remember is turning over a paper and staring blankly.  You couldn’t request extra time in the exams for a medical condition in those days, which might have helped, but who knows? Anyway, I failed all eight ‘O’ levels, despite being a very high achiever at school and a regular prize-winner. It was a huge blow to my self-esteem.

The difference between having uncontrolled and controlled epilepsy is enormous. Life returns to almost normal again! So once doctors had found the right medication and my seizures were controlled, my dream was to return to school, retake my exams, and continue. Yet there was resistance at every turn: “Don’t retake the exams. They will make you ill again”; “Leave school. It’s too much for you”.  But I loved learning too much to give in. Despite the external attempts to limit my life, I retook my ‘O’ levels in the summer holidays, finished secondary school and then studied at university.

It may come as a surprise, but I didn’t experience much teasing from classmates. I suffered as a result of my teachers. It wasn’t intentional. It was a result of a lack of knowledge and awareness. One well-meaning teacher gave us a lesson in which we were invited to judge who we would employ from a selection of people, one of whom had epilepsy. She planned to challenge our choices after the activity, I assume. But it didn’t work for me. When my classmates said they wouldn’t employ the “eppy”, I ran out of the classroom in floods of tears. Another example was when I was prevented from taking part in school events “in case I caused a problem”. This meant sitting with the nurse and a boy with generalised epilepsy while our peers went to assembly, church and on school outings. While we waited indoors, we could hear our classmates laughing and screaming outside. We’d hear the engines of the school buses roar, as everyone set off for a day-trip to London.

There’s no denying that the feeling of exclusion hurt. Like every teenager, we just wanted to be ‘normal’!

The past is the past, however, and that was the late 70s.

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Kate in her late teens at university.

To be honest, my story is nowhere near as traumatic as some peoples’ stories.  Many people have lost a loved one to epilepsy. Deaths occur when people fall during a generalised seizure. They also happen as a result of SUDEP (‘sudden unexpected death in epilepsy’).  Other people have been seriously injured from burns and bruises, because of how or where they fell. Some are housebound, while others have to wear helmets to protect themselves. Finally, only about one third of people with epilepsy ever find medication to control their seizures; many others only find a partial solution, according to ‘Epilepsy Action’.

In contrast, I’ve been able to lead a healthy, happy and successful life with epilepsy for the last 40 years. Has the epilepsy gone? No, I still have a mild seizure every four to six months. These would be more severe and frequent if it weren’t for my medications. They cost a whopping 20% of my salary, but they’re worth every penny.

Life’s not perfect. An unfortunate side effect of my strong medication means I experience extreme tiredness. I suffer from panic attacks, particularly when going onstage, because I dread having a seizure while in public. Lastly, it’s a strain to ‘hide’ my epilepsy. I have to take care to avoid the six triggers (i.e. missing medication, lack of sleep, extreme stress, alcohol, drugs, and flashing lights) but avoiding trigger situations frequently means inventing excuses for why I can’t join colleagues for a drink, take part in a conference social event, or go for an evening meal. Finding the balance is the key. I try to participate as much as possible, but also have to miss out. Obviously that’s a huge shame but a small price to pay for staying healthy.

Being simultaneously careful and bold is what has enabled me to achieve so much in my life. Epilepsy hasn’t stopped me from backpacking across Latin America, volunteering in Africa, or learning to scuba dive and paraglide. Nor has it prevented me from teaching, training teachers across the world, and authoring over 25 EFL books. OK, so I can’t drive or stay up late. But I can live, love, laugh – and importantly for me, I can have a fulfilling career in ELT/education.

I hope the suggestions and tips below help a little. For now, thank you to all, especially Phil, Katherine (Bilsborough), Cheryl (Palin), Lise (Minovitz) and others for your huge support. And now please raise your glass, because I’ve done it! And it only took me 40 years! Raise it high to the millions of people with epilepsy, especially to those who don’t have the luxury of leading a full life, those who can’t find or afford medicines, and those ‘in hiding’ who may want to share!

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Patternak Quote

Seven Tips for Educators

  1. Find out the details, rather than treat everyone with epilepsy the same way. Should you have a student or trainee with epilepsy, it’s important to ask them which kind of epilepsy they have, what their symptoms are, how frequently they have seizures, and most importantly, if they are on medication.
  2. Colleagues will appreciate one question: If you have a seizure, what can I do to support you?
  3. Be aware of who doesn’t need help. People whose seizures are controlled are unlikely to need help. According to Epilepsy Action: “many children, once their epilepsy is controlled by medicine, are unlikely to need any extra support, although a side effect of the medication is to feel tired”.
  4. In terms of classroom management, consider: where we should sit (next to a friend or the door), how much we can do, and learning needs. We may need more time when taking tests or exams. What we can and can’t do depends on the type of epilepsy we have as well as whether we’re taking the right dose of medication.
  5. Understand that students may also miss your lessons due to medical appointments.
  6. Should an attack occur in the classroom, bear in mind that you won’t have any warning, and you can’t stop seizures once they start, though, you need to have a back-up plan for what to do with the rest of the class on those occasions. The person having a seizure needs plenty of air. Remove sharp objects away from the person. Stay calm, let it run its course, and give us time to come round afterwards, which might mean sitting with us for a while. You can learn ‘seizure response’ (see the video on Epilepsy Action).
  7. Be sensitive about preferred terminology. Personally I don’t feel at all offended by words like ‘turn’, ‘attack’ or ‘fit’. However, I prefer the phrase ‘people with epilepsy’ to ‘epileptics’. Epilepsy doesn’t define who we are!

Some Useful links:

Postscript: Kate is currently receiving treatment. She is exploring Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and practising mindfulness. She is beginning to see a pattern in her thinking. It is helping her enormously to talk to others in epilepsy groups, starting to share her story and raise awareness in the wider community of what it is, what it is not and what to do.

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Credits: Epilepsy Awareness Ribbon Vector Image c/o Pixabay using a CCO licence.  All other photos and images used by kind permission of Kate Cory-Wright.

Reference: Bowers, E. (2013) Overcoming the Stigma of Epilepsy. Available at https://www.everydayhealth.com/epilepsy/overcoming-the-stigma-of-epilepsy.aspx. Accessed 2 June.

English for Driving Theory

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I have just completed teaching English for the UK Driving Theory Test (EDT). This was a new venture for me and came from my employment with Norfolk Community Learning Services.  I mostly taught Syrian refugees, who have fled the conflict in their home country. They had been living in the UK for about one year when the 20-week course started. There were also two students from Algeria, one from Hungary, one from Bangladesh and one from the Congo.  I was apparently the first person in the East Anglia region to use materials devised some years ago by Stephen Woulds and Jennie Cole in Leeds, which are publicly available, with this cohort of learners.  It has been a fantastic opportunity to do something with a very specific learning aim.

Most of the students arrived in the UK as part of the government-led and financed Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme.  In 2016, a decision was taken to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years.  It roughly worked out as 50 families per local authority.  Some of the learners came from two low-level ESOL classes which took place at the same location.  Part of their conditions of being resettled is to have English lessons, but as you could imagine, there are often absences, lateness, social or childcare problems to deal with.  When a phone rang in class it was usually something quite important such as a doctors appointment.   They were, nonetheless, highly motivated learners and apologetic if they missed class.  To be able to drive will open up both work and domestic opportunities, making life easier as they continue to settle in the UK, despite headlines like this recent one which stated that Syrian refugees have been sanctioned for taking English classes rather than trying to find work!

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The EDT material had a general scheme of work, lesson plans, a student workbook and interactive PowerPoints or Word documents.  These were put together several years ago and did not always work properly with the latest versions of Microsoft Office.  The macros were disabled. The workbooks were also designed for ESOL Entry Level 2, while most of my learners were Entry Level 1 at best.  So I had to be flexible and adapt the materials accordingly.  There was a lot of input – mostly new vocabulary.  There was no wifi in the classroom.  I bought my own laptop, my own tablet plus four borrowed Nexus tablets, onto which I had to download the PowerPoints in advance as well as making sure they were fully charged.  Always one device per pair of learners. It was a little tricky, but I managed to facilitate the interactive element most lessons.  One female Syrian student occasionally brought her own laptop and, bizarrely, by using a PowerPoint saved on a USB stick, her laptop sometimes played the ‘macro’ elements, which meant that she occasionally had the answers before anyone else.

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Most of the questions in the PowerPoints were multiple choice and based on questions from the actual theory test.  They were adapted from books such as the AA guide, which we needed to use as, with macros disabled, answers were not always available on the PowerPoints. Almost every question involved unfamiliar vocabulary, so I allowed mobile devices to be used. Translation software for single words helped the lessons move along at the pace needed to cover all the material.  I always made sure students were working in pairs or small groups and that they discussed the possible answers.  Quite often I took a ‘back seat’ and let them go at their own speed, monitoring and checking understanding as we went. I also made sure they wrote correct answers in their workbooks so that they had a record of work and could feel a sense of progress on the course. It also mattered to show evidence to the organisations (stakeholders) who fund the course. I drew on 27 years experience of driving in the UK and several years working for insurance brokerages – including one in Norwich.  Often there was something topical, such as bad weather, which made for interesting discussions.

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In the second week, my car had its MOT test and I was told that there was hardly any oil in the engine. I’m technically savvy, but not very car savvy.  What a dipstick!  Two days later I had to teach the English vocabulary for parts of the engine and, of course, where to add the oil!  Part of that lesson was spent outside, with the students all looking under the bonnet of my motor.  It felt like I was teaching at a vocational college. A later lesson involved telling the story about how I left all my own car documentation on the roof of my car after breaking down.  On another occasion, I brought in ‘realia’, such as my now dirt-covered Registration ‘Log’ Book and replacement insurance documents.  Most of them already had experience of driving in their home country, but it’s the language barrier that they need to overcome and the specific knowledge needed to take the test. They also needed practical help applying for a provisional licence and how to book lessons with a local driving instructor.

There was supplementary material, which was either done in class time or given out as homework.  We completed a lot of work on recognising traffic signs – red triangles for warnings, red circles for orders, blue circles for things that are allowed, rectangles for information and directions etc.

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Some of them borrowed or purchased a Driving Theory Test book. I recommended that, as autonomous learners, they would do better in the mock theory practice test I planned for the penultimate lesson. For this, I had to obtain several copies of the official DVSA theory driving test + hazard awareness module.  On 18 May, we had a practice test in class where two groups did a full run-through of 50 random questions.  One group scored 29 / 50 while the other group scored 21 / 50 – so both groups failed by some distance, although they managed 50 correct answers between them!  I did the same test myself  later on and just scraped a pass – 43 / 50. So even for British-born, native English speakers with lots of driving experience, it can still be a struggle to pass the test. Especially questions related to first aid treatment and what to do with a casualty in the event of a road traffic accident.  Note: I am old enough and lucky enough not to have taken the theory test before getting my full licence!

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On 25 May, all the students individually took a full mock theory test using the above test kit from the DVSA. I created this guide to the two-part test using the official DVDs.  They sat both a mock theory test and the hazard perception test (14 videos with developing hazards).  As I predicted – they all failed the theory test, with the highest score being 33/50.  None of them were able to pass on their own. This is no reflection on their progress or my teaching, but a demonstration of how far short they are of taking the real test. Lots more practice is needed using the DVDs.  However, several of them passed the hazard perception test.  This is mostly because a lot of them have driven a vehicle before, in their own country.  Higher marks are given in hazard perception for quicker reaction times.  You can score up to 5 marks on each video.

Given the difficulty of the test, in terms of both their English level and UK driving theory knowledge, it was almost impossible for these particular learners to pass at this stage. The students clearly made progress, having started off as Entry Level 1 with only few relevant words. I wasn’t at all disheartened by the scores, because I always knew it would be too difficult to achieve a pass mark in the time allowed.  They have regular ESOL classes and not much time for self-study.  But autonomous learners will do better.

It has been one of the best teaching experiences because it combined all sorts of skills.  The ability to pare down language for lower-levels, classroom management, dictionary work, simultaneous translation, eliciting, correcting and monitoring.  My driving experience and awareness of what is required to drive in the UK was essential.  In addition, it required a good knowledge and aptitude to use technology – on a range of different mobile devices.

By the end of the course all of the students were still short of passing the real theory test. However, with revision and lots of practice using the DVDs, which were given to them at the end of the course, they are getting closer to reaching their destination!

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Some of the learners taking the mock test

First Time On Grass

This is a very brief flashback post, tenuously inspired by the recent Royal Wedding in the UK.

I’ve just uploaded one song from one of the only two musical albums I’ve ever been involved in creating.  In 1993 I made a solo album called ‘So Serious’.  Most of it is not very good and is sixth form poetry at best, although I did record a cover version of Peter Gabriel’s Washing of the Water, which I recently aired on a closed Facebook group, called ‘Nightshift’.

However, two years later, I was involved in a live recording of a short-lived traditional jazz band.  It was final gig of a quintet who used to play at the Golden Fleece public house in Wells-next-the-Sea.  The members were John (Sax, Clarinet, Vocals), Ian (Guitar, landlord at the time), Nigs (Drums and heckling), Gavin (Harmonica) and myself (keys – i.e. piano).   For one night only we were called the Warham 5, as the venue was the Three HorseShoes in Warham, just outside of my hometown of Wells-next-the-Sea, in Norfolk.  It was during a beer festival at the pub.  My brother and father were in the audience.  I was 24 years old at the time.

The title of the live album came from a comment that John made the performance, about this being the first time we had played on grass – actually, AstroTurf.  But with at least one pot smoker in the band, this had a double-meaning and caused riotous laughter from the mostly drunken audience.

Anyway, here is one track from the album, entitled ‘Royal Garden Blues’, which is probably the most royal thing I’ve ever been involved in.

Walk for Parkinson’s

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On Saturday 12 May, my father and I went on a 5.5 mile sponsored walk at the Blickling Estate, Norfolk, in aid of Parkinson’s UK.  It was the first time either of us have been involved in an official event for this national charity.  My dad, Barry, who is just about to turn 73 years of age, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in December 2011. As the charity states:

“Every hour, someone in the UK is told they have Parkinson’s. Because we’re here, no one has to face Parkinson’s alone. We offer friendship, support, expert information and advice. We also fund ground breaking research into Parkinson’s and we’re leading the way to find a cure.”

Anyone that knows Barry knows that he still gets about, but he can’t do half the things he used to do or it takes a lot longer to do them. It has greatly affected his confidence, especially in social situations. Concentrating on tasks makes him shake a lot.  He shuffles rather than walks nowadays. This slowly degenerative disease doesn’t kill, but it does affect the quality of life. Dad has always been a very keen walker, but he is not as stable as he used to be. He felt motivated to do this but kept conversation on the day to a minimum, as that requires energy.

Dad was already struggling with a dodgy toe. After about one mile, Dad’s knees started hurting.  After about four miles his back went and he started walking at an awkward angle.  He collapsed under a tree around the 5 mile mark. The last half a mile were a real struggle, but he stubbornly made it to the end and even ran the last 25 metres. He recovered and is already looking forward to doing the same walk again next year!

He enthusiastically raised £165 among friends and family, while I raised a further £65 through online donations.  We will send this to Parkinson’s UK in due course.

The venue and the weather were great. All in all, it was a lovely day. A slideshow of my photos can be seen below:

 

All the official photographs can be found on this Flickr page.